Philadelphia soul

Philadelphia soul, sometimes called Philly soul, the Philadelphia sound, Phillysound, or TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia), is a genre of late 1960s–1970s soul music characterized by funk influences and lush instrumental arrangements, often featuring sweeping strings and piercing horns. The genre laid the groundwork for disco by fusing the R&B rhythm sections of the 1960s with the pop vocal tradition, and featuring a slightly more pronounced jazz influence in its melodic structures and arrangements. Fred Wesley, the trombonist of the James Brown band and Parliament-Funkadelic, described the signature deep but orchestrated sound as "putting the bow tie on funk."


Due to the emphasis on sound and arrangement and the relative anonymity of many of the style's players, Philadelphia soul is often considered a producers' genre. Bunny Sigler, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff were credited with developing the genre.

Philadelphia soul songwriters and producers included Bobby Martin; Thom Bell; Linda Creed; Norman Harris; Dexter Wansel and the production teams of McFadden & Whitehead; and Gamble & Huff of Philadelphia International Records, who worked with a stable of studio musicians to develop the unique Philadelphia sound used as backing for many different singing acts. Many of these musicians would record as the instrumental group MFSB, which had a hit with the seminal Philadelphia soul song "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" in 1974.

Notable extensions of the Philadelphia sound were bassist Ronald Baker; guitarist Norman Harris and drummer/Trammps baritone Earl Young (B-H-Y), who also recorded as the Trammps and would produce records themselves. These three were the base rhythm section for MFSB, and branched off into a sub-label of Philadelphia International Records called Golden Fleece, distributed by CBS Records (now Sony Music). Soon after, Harris created the Gold Mind label in conjunction with Salsoul Records. Gold Mind's roster included First Choice, Loleatta Holloway, and Love Committee, all of whom would feature Baker/Harris/Young productions of their material. Their 1976 hit by Double Exposure, "Ten Percent", was the first commercial 12-inch single.

Philadelphia soul was popular throughout the 1970s, and it set the stage for the studio constructions of disco and urban contemporary music that emerged later in the decade. Its style had a strong influence on later Philadelphia acts, most notably The Roots, Vivian Green, Jill Scott and Musiq Soulchild.

Notable artists

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list.
  • Archie Bell & the Drells
  • Blue Magic
  • Jerry Butler
  • Jean Carne
  • Norman Connors
  • The Delfonics
  • William DeVaughn
  • Double Exposure
  • Ecstasy, Passion & Pain
  • First Choice
  • Hall & Oates
  • Major Harris
  • Loleatta Holloway
  • Eddie Holman

  • Phyllis Hyman
  • Instant Funk
  • The Intruders
  • The Jones Girls
  • Patti LaBelle
  • McFadden & Whitehead
  • Barbara Mason
  • Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
  • MFSB
  • New York City
  • Cliff Nobles
  • The O'Jays
  • Billy Paul
  • Teddy Pendergrass

  • The People's Choice
  • Lou Rawls
  • The Ritchie Family
  • Todd Rundgren
  • Salsoul Orchestra
  • Dee Dee Sharp
  • The Soul Survivors
  • The Spinners (mid-to-late 70s)
  • Bobby Starr
  • The Stylistics
  • Sweet Sensation
  • The Trammps
  • The Three Degrees
  • The Vibrations

    Producers and songwriters

  • Ronnie Baker
  • Vinnie Barrett
  • Thom Bell
  • Cynthia Biggs
  • Dave Crawford
  • Linda Creed
  • Bobby Eli
  • Allan Felder
  • Gamble and Huff
  • Cary Gilbert
  • Norman Harris
  • Ron Kersey
  • McFadden & Whitehead
  • John Madara
  • Charles Mann
  • Bobby Martin
  • Vincent Montana, Jr.
  • Jerry Ragovoy
  • Bunny Sigler
  • Ron Tyson
  • Dexter Wansel
  • Earl Young